Friends School of Baltimore Private School Blog

Robot-Proofing, a New Approach to a Modern Education

Posted by Matt Micciche, Head of School, Friends School of Baltimore on May 16, 2019 1:30:19 PM

Last week, I attended a conference sponsored by the Mastery Transcript Consortium, a network of public and private schools dedicated to reimagining the way student achievement is assessed and represented.  Friends joined MTC one year ago so that we could help shape the groundbreaking conversations taking place in this country around the traditional high school transcript, developed more than one hundred years ago, and its limitations in the modern world.

At this conference, held at Northeastern University, we each received a copy of the book Robot-Proof by Joseph Aoun, Northeastern’s President. In it, Aoun articulates the need for an “updated model of higher education,” for the age of artificial intelligence, one that “refits (students’) mental engines, calibrating them with a creative mindset and the mental elasticity to invent, discover, or otherwise produce something society deems valuable.”  “Instead of training laborers,” he writes, “a robot-proof education trains creators.”

The premise of Aoun’s argument is, as his title suggests, the threat AI poses to work that we once thought could only be performed by actual humans. He cites as evidence of this coming change an “oft-quoted 2013 study from Oxford University (which) found that nearly half of U.S. jobs are at risk of automation in the next twenty years.” Developments since 2013, including large-scale usage of AI to automate work in such fields as law, finance, and other lucrative sectors of the economy, suggest that such a forecast is not far-fetched.  What, he asks, needs to change about our model of higher (and by extension secondary) education in order to prepare our children to thrive in this rapidly shifting environment?

According to Aoun, the cure for what ails higher ed is an approach that he labels “humanics,” which develops mastery of relevant content as well as the “uniquely human cognitive capacities” that defy automation.  The content to which he refers includes many traditional fields, but to these he adds “data literacy, technological literacy, and human literacy.” The human cognitive capacities (roughly akin to the habits of mind in our Teaching and Learning Paradigm) that he believes to be essential include systems thinking, entrepreneurship, cultural agility, and critical thinking.  Perhaps not surprisingly, from the President of Northeastern, a university that has long promoted hands-on learning through its co-op program, he believes that in order for these qualities to become deeply ingrained, students “need to experience them in the intensity and chaos of real work environments such as co-ops and internships.”

For me, reading Robot-Proof is profoundly affirming of the direction we’ve charted for teaching and learning at Friends School.  We, too, believe that the mastery of content is only one component of a world-class education and that it must be complemented by the cultivation of a critical set of habits of mind and interpersonal skills.  We, too, are eager to have our students take the knowledge they’ve created out into the world and put it to work in settings where they can see its value and appreciate its impact. And we, too, acknowledge that as the world around us becomes more automated, the value of uniquely human qualities is heightened, not diminished.

# # #


Are Robots Competing for Your Job? -- The New Yorker (Feb. 25, 2019)

The Workforce of the Future: The Skills Challenge Becomes More Apparent -- Forbes (Jan. 22, 2019)


Read More

Topics: Teaching empathy, 4th Industrial Revolution, student assessment, student assessments, growth mindset, Mastery Transcript Consortium, creativity, artificial intelligence, critical thinking

Intellectual Humility: A Surprising Superpower

Posted by Matt Micciche, Head of School, Friends School of Baltimore on Feb 19, 2019 2:29:19 PM

Who among us doesn’t enjoy having our long-held beliefs confirmed?  Especially if the source of such affirmation is a well-respected and impartial institution. You can imagine, then, the pleasure I felt in coming across a recent white paper produced by Stanford University, titled, “A Fit Over Rankings; Why College Engagement Matters More Than Selectivity.”  

What’s your superpower? Beyond loosening up nervous or otherwise hesitant participants during professional and social gatherings this popular ice-breaker encourages us to reimagine our seemingly unremarkable traits, elevating them from the mundane to the extraordinary. One such undervalued quality that might give x-ray vision or the ability to fly a run for their money is intellectual humility; a virtue that Mark Leary, a social and personality psychologist at Duke University describes to Vox science reporter Brian Resnick in his recent article as “the recognition that the things you believe in might in fact be wrong.”

Resnick profiles Leary and several other bold social psychologists who are working to shift the field of psychology and the scientific community as a whole toward a culture in which it is safe to admit past mistakes. He explains that the obstacles to intellectual humility are both cognitive (we are, for the most part, profoundly unaware of the “blind spots” in our knowledge) and cultural (the professional and academic worlds do not reward – and often actually punish – the habit of admitting uncertainty or error).  He points out that intellectual humility is both a product of and a catalyst for other qualities, such as curiosity, critical thinking, reflection and information literacy. (These are also some of the skills and habits of mind referenced in Friends School’s Teaching and Learning Paradigm.)

By regularly asking our students to reflect on their knowledge, its sources, and its limitations, Friends School educators actively work to create an environment in which intellectual humility can thrive and mistakes are seen as an important step in the learning process. We’re helped along in this effort by the foundational Quaker tenet that “the truth is continually revealed.”  Embedded in this axiom is the acknowledgement that what we once believed to be true is often “revealed” to be imprecise, incomplete, or just plain wrong. While such a realization can be deeply unsettling, it is also an undeniable reality. (It is worth remembering that the heliocentric universe, for example, was an accepted scientific fact for much of human history.)

In an era when “the death of truth” is frequently proclaimed, the importance of teaching children that all of us, adults and children alike, are frequently wrong is essential. Ironically, as Resnick shows, it may well be the case that a more widespread embrace of the fallibility of human knowledge will ultimately be the key to ensuring that rigorous scientific thinking remains central to our decision-making process individually and collectively.

Though it seems unlikely that Marvel Comics will be introducing a “Captain Intellectual Humility” anytime soon, this surprising superpower may just be the hero we’ve been waiting for.

# # #

Want Greatness? Create A Safe Zone For Admitting Mistakes -- Forbes (Jan. 23, 2019)

How to Help Your Kids Thrive -- Thrive Global (Feb. 15, 2019)

How ‘Intellectual Humility’ Can Make You a Better Person -- The Cut (Feb. 3, 2017)


Read More

Topics: intellectual humility, growth mindset, admitting mistakes, leadership development

Considering an Independent School? 

Download Friends School's "15 Important Questions to Ask when visiting an independent school." 

  • Learn the right questions to ask when evaluating school options. 
  • Gain confidence in making the important decision of where to send your child to school. 

15 Questions to Ask

Subscribe to Email Updates

Other blog posts

Experience Friends 

Experience our culture and campus like never before. 

Inquire at Friends